Former Los Angeles Angels employee Eric Kay is on trial this week facing charges of drug distribution and drug conspiracy in the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs. During testimony on Tuesday it was discovered that there was significant drug use within the Angels organization between 2017 and 2019, including admission of use from pitchers Matt Harvey, Mike Morin and Cam Bedrosian and first baseman C.J. Cron.
Skaggs, 27, was found dead July 1, 2019, after the team had traveled from Los Angeles and before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. A coroner’s report indicated Skaggs had choked to death on his vomit, and a toxic mix of alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone was in his system.
The prosecutors allege Kay gave Skaggs counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl after the team arrived in Texas. Kay’s defense team says Kay last gave Skaggs drugs in California and there’s no way to know whether fentanyl led to his death.
Harvey admitted on the stand to cocaine use, according to reports from the courtroom. He also said he was still using cocaine after he signed with the Angels.
Cocaine wasn’t the only drug Harvey copped to using. He also tried oxycodone provided by Skaggs also provided drugs to Skaggs.
On the stand Harvey was asked if he ever warned Skaggs about the dangers of mixing drugs and alcohol and if he ever told Skaggs to be careful.
“Looking back, I wish I had,” Harvey said. “In baseball you do everything you can to stay on the field. At the time I felt as a teammate I was just helping him get through whatever he needed to get through.”
Harvey said he found out about Skaggs’ death when he woke up on July 1, and he threw away the remaining oxycodone pills in his possession.
“I wanted absolutely nothing to do with that anymore, and I was very scared,” said Harvey, who also said oxycodone and Tylenol use was common in the major leagues.
Drug abuse happens within the larger society and athletes are not immune. Being an addict is a serious problem and professional help is needed to overcome and gain sobriety.
Fans often think rich athletes who play “kids games” for a living have nothing negative in their lives that should cause alcohol or drug dependency. But that’s simply not true. Money and celebrity do not shield you from the issues that lead to addiction. In some cases money is the catalyst for said issues.
Skaggs is dead and we have no way of knowing how things would have turned out if he had been able and willing to get the help he needed. All that’s left now is to find fault with someone and exact some measure of “justice.”
It will be interesting to see how Major League Baseball handles the results and findings of this trial. Skaggs, Harvey, Morin, Bedrosian and Cron are all white. In this country when drug abusers are white a more sympathetic approach to the situation, as mentioned above, is taken.
If MLB starts instituting different treatment measures, less punitive and more preventative measures, and ways to identify the signs of drug abuse and offer help, etc. that would be telling. To be clear, that should be how we approach drug abuse for everyone, full stop.
If Kay knowingly sold Skaggs fake oxy laced with fentanyl and watched Skaggs snort it and left him in a state of medical distress then he should face whatever punishment is handed out. But that won’t change the fact that Skaggs is dead.
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